Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It didn't feel like Christmas this year for some reason, and now I can't quite believe that we've nearly finished with 2010.  The year is galloping to a close, and I feel totally left behind.  I'm not ready to start writing 2011 as the date.

We did have a lovely get together with Mereth's boys and their partners, plus Curtis the WonderDog and new baby Logan. 

It was great to see them all again, and Logan was welcomed with delight.  He hardly had a chance to sleep in his bed, there was always someone waiting for a turn to hold him.  He was placid and good-natured and utterly adorable. 

Dolly and Curtis got on like a house on fire, but Curtis just couldn't work out what Pippi was.  She was too small, and too quick, and she kept chewing on him with needle-sharp puppy teeth. He was reduced to begging his mum to protect him.

We went to Adelaide on Boxing day for a quick visit; this photo is of the salt lakes at Lake View.  They were a vivid fuchsia pink, completely unreal.  We took lots of photos, but the colour doesn't come out true to life.  It's particularly pink this year, it looks like it's been Photoshopped.

I thought that it would have been a terrible Christmas break if there was no sewing accomplished, so I sewed a few more of the Road to Oklahoma blocks, but my heart isn't really in it.  Then I decided I was thoroughly sick of my overflowing drawers of strips.   I usually do Bonnie's mystery quilts, and that helps clean out the strip drawers, but I didn't have time for that this year. 

The first drawer I tackled was the 1.5" one.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with them, so I just started sewing them into pairs, which I've done two or three times before.

The sewing time lets me decide what I'll do next.  Last time I did this I made hundreds of four-patches and it took ages before they were all used up.  This time I wasn't particularly keen on the four-patch idea, and I'd been thinking how much I like the way Bonnie makes new fabric by string piecing all the little bits together.  So as well as sewing pairs of light and dark strips, I also sewed similar coloured strips together so I could cut a larger square out of them.

The light/dark pairs will form a sashing around the strip pieced squares, the small bits will make the four-patches and hopefully every last little scrap will find a place in this design.

What amazes me is that if I've regularly cleared out this size of strip drawer; why then are there such old and unlovely bits still there??  Where are they coming from?  Will I never be rid of them?

Once all these bits are used up I'll make crumb blocks as the large square, and just keep going until I've used up all the stray bits cluttering my workroom.  And I'm going to get rid of anything that makes me think twice about including it. If I don't love it, it's going to be thrown out or given away.  I'm going to start 2011 with the scraps thinned out and the drawers a lot emptier.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's a working weekend for me, I'm trying to get all the quilts with Christmas deadlines finished.  We've already done 5 quilts this week, but there's no time to waste if these quilts are to get  back to their owners in time. 

The cross-hatching on this embroidery quilt is nearly finished, then it's a matter of filling the 13" wide borders.  At least there's lots of room for quilting.  And the owner of the quilt is going to finish off all those thread ends, which is one less job for me to do.

I can't believe it's nearly Christmas, it just doesn't feel like it at all this year.    Maybe one evening we'll go driving and look at all the lights and decorated yards, that always helps set the mood.  The weather is really strange too, it's positively cold at times, and that is so unusual for our summers.  Last year there was a record-breaking heatwave, this year is the coolest, wettest summer for decades.  I'm loving it though, certainly not complaining.

I even did a little bit of sewing, trying out another idea for using the Easy Angle ruler.

 I've always loved this shape, but it's not the easiest thing to rotary cut with an ordinary ruler.  This is how I did it with the Easy Angle;

start off with a 4.5" square.  Place the 2.5" line on the edge of the square, with the other edges of the ruler lined up with the edges of the square, and trim off the corner.

Flip the square over and trim off the other corner.  You can flip the ruler if you prefer, but I like doing it this way as the markings are easier to read.  You now have an irregular pentagon shape.

Cut two 2.5" triangles with the Easy Angle.  Place one on the pentagon, and sew with a .25"seam.

Press seam towards the light fabric, and add the other triangle.
TaDa!!  I love these little units, they're like houses. 

I can see me making a lot more in my spare time, there are so many nice blocks that can be made with them.  In fact, I've already whipped one up.

Mereth came round this afternoon to do some work, and I showed her the evidence of what her puppy has been up to. 
Apparently Pippi has a taste for literature!  We'll have to stop her chewing precious things like books, she can have bannister brushes and tennis balls and wooden spoons, but stay away from the bookshelves.

It's hard to be cross with this face though.

And this is my pup, in her guise of Hypno-Dog, trying to hypnotise me into taking her for a walk on this windy afternooon.  Looks like it worked, we're off to the golf course.



Friday, December 10, 2010

I received a nice little surprise in the post last week, a copy of the latest Homespun Magazine.

This edition of the magazine is well worth buying; there's a project in there from Kellie over at Don't Look Now; I'm a huge fan of her designs, so clean and fresh.  I just may be tempted to try her methods on a little wall-hanging.

On the cover is a Storm At Sea quilt that I made, and as usual they did a wonderful job on the article.

 When I was asked to make this quilt for the Summertime Issue I wasn't immediately overjoyed; this block has always been on my Must-make list, as well as my Too-much-trouble list.  But I saw it as a challenge, to make the quilt with the easiest most accurate methods, and maybe help someone else conquer this pattern.

I made it using Freezer Paper templates for foundation piecing, which worked a treat.  Once I had the instructions for the templates and method worked out I gave them to Mereth and asked her to trial them.  That was actually my sneaky way of making her do some of the blocks for me; I'd better credit her with 5 finished blocks.

I had a pile of blue pieces ear-marked for removal from the stash, and this pattern is great for stash reduction.  There are so many different size pieces, it utilised every big and little scrap in the pile.

I first saw this pattern in the first quilt book I ever bought, The Standard Book Of Quiltmaking by Marguerite Ickis. 

I bought it Wodonga, in 1977;  I was a measly 18 years old, and I was travelling from the Airforce base at Laverton in Victoria, to Wagga, NSW to continue my training. 

Check out that price tag!  It was all so long ago....

The instructions are pretty woeful, and the diagrams are basic, but it shows genuine antique quilts and it has a naive air that takes me straight back to my early, enthusiastic days of discovering quilting.  If I sometimes wonder why I'm doing this thing called  Quilting, a quick trip through this book and down memory lane puts my world to rights again.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

 Tutorial as promised.  A bit late, but I've had a very busy week.

I've always loved this block, Road To Oklahoma, but the construction didn't appeal to me.  I didn't want to sew it with HSTs and have extra seams in the background, and I didn't want to draw diagonal lines to sew on with the flippy corner method.  So every time I thougt about making the block I also thought 'Meh. Can't be bothered'.

A while ago I wondered why you couldn't cut that trapezoid shape with a ruler.  And it turns out, the Easy Angle is made for it.

I already use and love this ruler, as does Bonnie, but now I love it even more.  When I think of all the patterns made with this shape I can't wait to get started on them.

These are cut from 2.5"strips, using the 2.5"and 4.5"markings on the ruler.  It will also work with other measurements, like 1.5"and 3.5", and the larger Easy Angle gives even more sizes.

To make this block, use a 2.5" background strip folded double, so that you are cutting a reverse shape at the same time.  Cut both sides of the ruler, the straight one and the slanted one.
If I were clever I would have taken a photo of the end trimmed square, and the ruler aligned with the edge, but ......
Rotate the ruler, and cut another shape from the folded strip, and then you can even use the same ruler to cut a pair of 2.5"squares.  Neat!

Stack two dark 2.5" strips, wrong sides up, and cut out a traapezoid shape, rotate the ruler and cut a triangle, then 2 squares;  remember there are two layers, so you are cutting all the shapes needed for one block with as few cuts as possible (2 trapezoids, 2 triangle and 4 squares).

 Line the ruler up with the points on those trapezoids, and nub off the points.  This makes it super easy to line up the pieces later.

Lay out the shapes, so you can see what has to go where.
 Take the 2 trapezoides on each side and lay them right sides together like this; see how easy they line up?  Press the seam towards the dark patch.
Add a dark square to each light end, and press towards the dark fabric.  Make the remaining squares into a four-patch.

Sew the triangles to the other light trapezoids. Press the seam towards the dark patch.
Layout all the pieced units, and sew together.  Press seams away from the four-patch.
Sew the three rows together and press seams away from the four-patch.

And there you have it, a Road To Oklahoma block, in record time with no unecessary seams.   I think I need another 50 for my quilt, so I'd better get sewing.

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